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Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a legend in the art world, is currently exhibited some of her lesser-seen works at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The exhibition, which will be up until September, outlines the heroism the lively 84-year-old traditional woman exhumes.

Kusama, again at 84-years-old, has already had a long an industrious career as a painter, sculptor, as well as a writer, and was very involved with the 1960’s counter-culture movement. Noticed by her signature “polka-dot” patterns, in the late sixties she used her artist vision to organize naked body paintings, and even anti-war demonstrations. Her abstract pieces have won international acclaim since she began to show her pieces in galleries throughout New York City in 1996 (Yayoi Kusama, 2013).

This legend of the art world has worked with, and even influenced such names as Andy Warhol. Mainly known for these polka-dot abstractions and counter-culture paintings, her current Whitney Exhibition includes artwork from before 1957 to the present day. When dealing with the complexity of Kusama’s art, this is very relevant considering her psychiatric history (Cotter, 2012).

From a very young age Kusama recalls having visual hallucinations, as well as auditory ones. She also lived in Japan during World War Two, and experienced the horrors associated with any war at an extremely young age. According to a New York Times article, before her move to the United States, and while in art school in Kyoto, she composed endless amounts of drawings in pastel, collage, and watercolor. They state this as a “rhythm” she maintains to this day, along with her other intricacies (Cotter, 2012).

During the 1960’s in America, Kusama gained a reputation for being photographed with her newest artwork, almost compulsively. By the community at large, this was perceived as narcissistic, but considering her mental health–she currently resides in a mental hospital in Japan–this was probably a product of a psychological disorder. It is these things however, that Kusama cites as the inspiration for her work, as at many times she only had her art to keep herself truly grounded (Cotter, 2012).

This is the overall significance of Kusama’s newest solo exhibition at the Whitney. It features many works she did in her early years in Japan–clearly an integral part of her life, both as an artist, and as a person. These works were completed during a rather serious psychiatrically impressionable time in her life, in her home country of Japan–both atypical as a strong woman, and as a strong artist who was working to define her own style and approach toward art (Cotter, 2012).

Her paintings, as well as her entire life story, are both very important to Japanese culture, and specifically important to Japanese women. Her new exhibit at the Whitney, brought here from its opening in London, reflects two major centralized themes–mental illness, as well as feminism.

Her never before seen artwork is at times sexually explicit, portraying her views on feminism in the form of hidden phallic and vaginal symbols within her paintings. For someone who grew up in a Japanese culture based on tradition and humbleness. These colorful and expressive pieces of overtly sexual paintings, especially considering the date of some, would have made her a serious course of controversy in Japan. Perhaps this is the reason for her initial move to America–to embrace the counter-culture that embodied her artwork in many ways.

Another aspect of her artwork, that is a product of many situations, is her constant struggle with mental illness. Her ability to turn serene, relatable images into dark corners leaves the viewer both mesmerized and contemplative. These pieces are not only limited to the dark corners of Kushama’s mind, however. They explore psychedelic colors and visions, and clearly go beyond her “polka dot” style seen previously.

Although Kushama continues to live and work from a mental hospital in Japan since her initial move back from the United States, the impact of her art, and its importance in Japanese culture can be felt around the globe.

 

Works Cited

“Biography | Yayoi Kusama.” Biography | Yayoi Kusama. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2013.           <http://www.yayoi-kusama.jp/e/biography/index.html>.

Cotter, Holland. “ART REVIEW; Vivid Hallucinations From a Fragile Life.” The New   York Times. The New York Times, 13 July 2012. Web. 20 May 2013.      <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/arts/design/yayoi-kusama-at-whitney-      museum-of-american-art.html?pagewanted=1>.

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